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the bigness of cannon is skilful, by E.E. Cummings


Roupy is an area in northern France which is full of cemeteries from WWI dead and where Cummings served. During this time, he was suspected as a German spy and was kept in one room full of 30 other soldiers (which led to his prose work, The Enormous Room). Knowing this, it is easy to see where Cummings is coming from when writing this poem.

"the bigness of cannon is skilful," is about the horrors of wars and what it does to people. He's seen "noiseless boys", "fists of huger silence" by animals that are "long talkative", and people hide in poppies hoping to not be seen. Furthermore, the girls who would normally seek out boyfriends are left alone.


the bigness of cannon is skilful,

the bigness of cannon
is skilful,

but i have seen
death's clever enormous voice
which hides in a fragility
of poppies. . . .

i say that sometimes
on these long talkative animals
are laid fists of huger silence.

I have seen all the silence
full of vivid noiseless boys

at Roupy
i have seen
between barrages,

the night utter ripe unspeaking girls.

Published in The Dial, .

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Literary Movement
Modernism, 19th Century

War, Death

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